Every year, this gets harder. How in the world do I choose favorites? The pickier I become at choosing titles in the first place, the more difficult it is to choose a favorite because they are all so good. In fact, this year, I’m listing all the contenders, because they are worth getting to know, too.
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The main rule I have for myself is that I have to finish a book for it to be a contender. Because I love to start books, this is a form of self-discipline that has been very helpful for me. I often spend my spare December reading time finishing books rather than doing what I would more like to do: starting new ones. How many books did I finish this year? 32. How many did I begin? I have no idea. I only mention the ones I don’t finish if I don’t plan to ever finish them — what I mean is, if I selected a book I think is bad, I warn you! He he.
Now, on with the awards! (Book of the Year is always given at the end….)
Best Read Aloud
My read aloud titles are listed here and aren’t part of my total of 32. I don’t know why I count them separately; I guess I like to know what I’ve done on my own. It was oh so hard to choose, and I feel a little guilty about Mr. Richard Hannay not winning, but Andrew Peterson totally takes the prize this year with his Wingfeather Saga.
Best Parenting Book
The Happy Dinner Table wins the prize for this category. You can read my more detailed review of it here if you like. I mainly read this as a review book to see if I could recommend it, but I found myself wishing I’d had it when my children were younger. I wouldn’t say I completely failed the food battles, but there is much I would have improved had I had the author’s advice. I highly recommend it!
Other contenders in this category: Being There by Erica Komisar (click here to read what I said about it on Instagram)
Best Government/History/Economics Book
If you read books in any of these categories, then you already know they often overlap. That history book gives you a brief economics lesson. This government book is full of history. It seems economical (ha) to combine the categories rather than split hairs.
This year, we’ve got a tie between Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery and Jane Marcet’s John Hopkins’s Notions on Political Economy. I loved both of these books, but they are too different to compare to one another.
John Hopkin’s Notions on Political Economy is an entirely different animal. Marcet uses a fictional, fairy tale style to teach basic principles of free market economics. I was raised on economics, so I can’t say I learned much from it; nothing in it was really new to me. But I cannot get over how brilliant she was for trying to teach economics using this approach! It was delightful and easy to understand. I think such a style would help resistant people warm up to such topics. I wish more writers attempted this level of innovation.
Other contenders in this category: Common Sense by Thomas Paine, The English Constitution by Walter Bagehot, The Age of Revolution by Winston Churchill, Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis, and Evaluating Books by Richard Maybury
Best Geography/Nature Lore
These categories don’t overlap as much as the previous categories, but I still combined them this year. This year’s winner was a fun read: Eothen by Alexander Kinglake. I read this as part of my reading of AmblesideOnline Year 10, and the discussions I ended up having with my son were many!
Other contender in this category: The Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin (extra fun because we live near the area she was writing about)
Best Theology/Church History
One of my favorite categories, as you likely know! The books I read for this category this year were a delightful feast! In the end, Against the Gods by John Currid was my favorite. It was just such an intriguing read! If you aren’t familiar with polemical theology, I won’t say this is an easy read, but books on this topic aren’t usually written for laypeople, so if you want to try your hand at it, this is a good book for it.
Ack. I hesitate to share these books because they are not for beginners. This is an area of study I’ve been pursuing for many years now. If you want to start studying homeopathy, don’t start with any of the titles I list here. Instead, start here.
Someone once told me to read everything Dr. Dorothy Shepherd wrote, but it wasn’t until this year that I got around to reading her. Homoeopathy in Epidemic Diseases was my first Shepherd, but now I see why people say this, and I plan to read more of her books as I find them.
Other contenders in this category: Autism: Beyond Despair and Inspiring Homeopathy (both by Tinus Smits), and Abridged Therapeutics Founded Upon Histology and Cellular Pathology by Wilhelm Schüessler
Please note that I can only recommend the works of Tinus Smits with reservation. Some of his work — for example, that which concerns saccharum officinalis is truly profound. But much of it is convoluted. This was one of those rare instances where I wondered if someone’s world view was so far from reality that it had affected his ability to perceive truth. If you are willing to mine for the jewels, by all means do so. But if you want a book where the majority of it is helpful, choose a different author.
Unfortunately for Anne White, I finished a volume of Charlotte Mason this year. (Sorry, Anne!) Nothing beats Miss Mason, as you well know. I finished leading my local group through Home Education, and I cannot tell you how rich it was, even though I’d read the volume who knows how many times before. This was also a poignant moment for me. Home Education was the first book by Miss Mason I ever read, back when my 15-year-old was a little guy. The subtitle of this book is Training and Educating Children Under Nine. My youngest (sob) is now nine. This is my last time reading the volume with children in the age range! Truly, it’s the end of an era. Of course I will revisit it in the future, but it won’t ever be the same.
Best Other Nonfiction
Ah, yes, the “other” category, that universal catch-all. It’s hard to compare these books because they’re quite different from one another, but my definite favorite was Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Dr. Paul Brand. It’s a book like no other book and very hard to describe. One part theology, one part physiology, one part biography, and one part philosophy, it is a book every Christian should read.
Here it is: everyone’s favorite category! I read a lot of wonderful books in this category this year, but The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas was my absolute favorite. It was my first time reading it, and what a fabulous read it turned out to be (although I’d call the ending unsatisfactory).
Other contenders in this category: She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith; The School for Scandal by Richard Brinsley Sheridan; The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia by Samuel Johnson; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Faust (Part I) by Johann Goethe; The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson; and Eifelheim by Michael Flynn (click here to read what I said about it on Instagram)
Book of the Year!
(I still can’t get over the gorgeous cover.)
Is it wrong to give the award to a book I published myself? I mean, it’s not like I wrote it. I figure it’s not wrong because it’s only because of how good the book was that I decided to become a publisher in the first place. No other book could have compelled me to do such a crazy thing. I spent a lot of time with this book during the publication process, and still came away thinking it was good, even after all of that time and concentration.
It’s moving. It’s inspiring. It’s compelling. It’s a glimpse at Charlotte Mason’s personal life, but it’s not bogged down in boring details — in fact, so much of her philosophy is evident and incarnated through the pages!